Surtseyan












Diagram of a Surtseyan eruption. (key: 1. Water vapor cloud 2. Compressed ash 3. Crater 4. Water 5. Layers of lava and ash 6. Stratum 7. Magma conduit 8. Magma chamber 9. Dike) 

A Surtseyan eruption (or hydrovolcanic) is a type of volcanic eruption caused by shallow-water interactions between water and lava, named so after its most famous example, the eruption and formation of the island of Surtsey off the coast of Iceland in 1963. Surtseyan eruptions are the "wet" equivalent of ground-based Strombolian eruptions, but because of where they are taking place they are much more explosive. This is because as water is heated by lava, it flashes in steam and expands violently, fragmenting the magma it is in contact with into fine-grained ash. Surtseyan eruptions are the hallmark of shallow-water volcanic oceanic islands, however they are not specifically confined to them. Surtseyan eruptions can happen on land as well, and are caused by rising magma that comes into contact with an aquifer (water-bearing rock formation) at shallow levels under the volcano. The products of Surtseyan eruptions are generally oxidized palagonite basalts (though andesitic eruptions do occur, albeit rarely), and like Strombolian eruptions Surtseyan eruptions are generally continuous or otherwise rhythmic.
A distinct defining feature of a Surtseyan eruption is the formation of a pyroclastic surge (or base surge), a ground hugging radial cloud that develops along with the eruption column. Base surges are caused by the gravitational collapse of a vaporous eruptive column, one that is denser overall then a regular volcanic column. The densest part of the cloud is nearest to the vent, resulting a wedge shape. Associated with these laterally moving rings are dune-shaped depositions of rock left behind by the lateral movement. These are occasionally disrupted by bomb sags, rock that was flung out by the explosive eruption and followed a ballistic path to the ground. Accumulations of wet, spherical ash known as accretionary lapilli is another common surge indicator.
Over time Surtseyan eruptions tend to form maars, broad low-relief volcanic craters dug into the ground, and tuff rings, circular structures built of rapidly quenched lava. These structures are associated with a single vent eruption, however if eruptions arise along fracture zones a rift zone may be dug out; these eruptions tend to be more violent then the ones forming a tuff ring or maars, an example being the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera. Littoral cones are another hydrovolcanic feature, generated by the explosive deposition of basaltic tephra (although they are not truly volcanic vents). They form when lava accumulates within cracks in lava, superheats and explodes in a steam explosion, breaking the rock apart and depositing it on the volcano's flank. Consecutive explosions of this type eventually generate the cone.

Volcanoes known to have Surtseyan activity include:
  •  Surtsey, Iceland. The volcano built itself up from depth and emerged above the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Iceland in 1963. Initial hydrovolcanics were highly explosive, but as the volcano grew out rising lava started to interact less with the water and more with the air, until finally Surtseyan activity waned and became more Strombolian in character.
  •  Ukinrek Maars in Alaska, 1977, and Capelinhos in the Azores, 1957, both examples of above-water Surtseyan activity.[5]
  • Mount Tarawera in New Zealand erupted along a rift zone in 1886, killing 150 people.
  • Ferdinandea, a seamount in the Mediterranean Sea, breached sea level in July 1831 and was the source of a dispute over sovereignty between Italy, France, and Great Britain. The volcano did not build tuff cones strongly enough to withstand erosion, and disappeared back below the waves soon after it appeared.
  • The underwater volcano Hunga Tonga in Tonga breached sea level in 2009. Both of its vents exhibited Surtseyan activity for much of the time. It was also the site of an earlier eruption in May 1988.